A weekly Jewish paper screams: “e-tv stirs Jewish wrath” in big bold black letters across its front page.
It lambastes e-tv for screening John Pilger’s documentary, “Palestine Is Still The Issue”, describing the two-and-half hours broadcast time as “prime-time Israel bashing session.”
The allegations of “anti-semitic” and charges of “jew-bashing” against e-tv and its 3rd Degree producer Debora Patta, which were accompanied by death threats, did not deter the TV network from broadcasting an excellent film which begs the question, “why are Palestinians still refugees in their own land?”
“What this fuss is about is that my film dared to tell, accurately and fairly, a basic truth that is routinely suppressed, that a great injustice has been done to the Palestinians and until Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of their land ends, there will be no peace for both peoples”, Pilger told Media Guardian.
A week before the broadcast, Independent correspondent Robert Fisk, in an article titled, “Israel – silencing the opposition”, poses an important question: Why is it that the Western world has instituted a campaign against writers, academics and thinkers willing to criticize the actions of Israel’s genocidal policies?
He refers to vicious campaigns of slander underway in the United States and other parts of the Western world against any journalist or activist who dares to criticize Israeli policies or those that shape them. He points out that persons such as Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer of the Middle East Forum, run a website in the US to denounce academics who are deemed to have shown “hatred of Israel”.
Palestinian scholar, Edward Said – whom a local Zionist Federation official disparagingly suggested to be an Egyptian, not a Palestinian – has described the campaign as requiring students and faculty to inform against pro-Palestinian colleagues. Said views this trend as intimidating the right of free speech and seriously curtailing academic freedom.
The harassment of e-tv and accusations by pro-Israeli lobbyists within the Zionist Federation and the Jewish Board of Deputies that the Pilger documentary is “propagandist” and “discredited”, was a hopeless and desperate attempt to prevent the South African public from witnessing the ugly brand of Zionist barbarity. Unfortunately for them, e-tv placed a higher premium on press freedom than on meek submission to veiled threats.
The Jewish Board’s envoy, flown in from London to defend Israel, Hagai Segal, called the doccie an example of “gutter journalism”. In a post mortem of the film, Segal said that it could be considered an incitement to violence, adding that since the month of Ramadaan “is a time of soul-searching, faith and issues of Muslim unity, it is the worst time to have screened it.”
Much to his dismay, a past chairman of the Cape Council of the Jewish Board, Solly Kesler said he had not found the documentary objectionable. He insisted that some of what was shown is indefensible and “the Jewish world owes it to itself tot be honest about it.”
While the debate rages on, it has been confirmed that four members of the public have lodged complaints against e-tv to the Broadcast Complaints Commission on the grounds that the film constitutes “hate speech.”
However, Fisk says he watched “Palestine Is Still The Issue” three times and vouches for its accuracy in every historical detail.
(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)